Joanne's Reviews > The Four Feathers

The Four Feathers by A.E.W. Mason
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's review
Sep 09, 2008

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bookshelves: fiction
Read in September, 2008

This 1902 book is interesting for all of its assumptions about what honor is. The premise is that a young British soldier resigns just as he receives his next assignment for battle -- because he's getting married. His colleagues, though, send him feathers as a sign of his cowardice, and his fiancee, when she hears his explanation of the feathers, also gives him a feather. So he leaves in disgrace and decides to 'redeem' each of the feathers by acting so bravely that the person who gave him the feather has to retract it.

The book is all very understated - no character ever says what she or he really thinks, but maintains a stiff upper lip -- and I find it hard to believe that people could really hold that much emotion (love, nobility, anger, resentment, worry, regret, jealousy, fear) in without exploding, but that's my 21st century U.S. view. The book drags at first - I actually used it as a bedtime soporific for a few days because the sentences were so restful -- but towards the middle when the courageous action comes in, the plot becomes pretty riveting.

The Penguin introduction goes on and on about the author generally and about how this is a great example of a war novel. Shrug.


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